California's great electric vehicle charging build-out

Electrify America EV charging infrastructure
Electrify America
Electrify America EV charging infrastructure

California, the state with the most EVs on its roads in the U.S., might finally get the infrastructure it will need to charge the coming wave of zero emissions vehicles.

On Wednesday afternoon, Volkswagen subsidiary Electrify America released the details of its plans to spend $200 million more deploying electric vehicle charging stations and educating the public around EV options. The company, created as part of a settlement after VW was caught cheating on its diesel vehicle emissions tests, intends to spend $2 billion over 10 years to promote EV adoption around the U.S.

The latest program, "Cycle 2," will seek to deploy mostly fast charging stations (DC) in metro areas up and down California, including around Riverside, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, San Diego and Santa Rosa. Electrify America's "Cycle 1," of investments, is already going towards installing about 2,000 chargers in many of these regions, at close to 500 sites.

The new funding includes two particularly important aspects that represent broader trends in the growing market around EV charging infrastructure. First, Electrify America will allocate a portion of its funding for charging infrastructure for fleets, including at transit bus depots, as well as for ride-hailing and other mobility programs encouraging EV adoption.

Secondly, Electrify America says that 35 percent of these next investments will be focused on low income and disadvantaged communities. The California Air Resources Board suggested this allocation, and CARB and the Environmental Protection Agency review Electrify America's investment plans (CARB still needs to review the Cycle 2 plan before it's deployed).

On a phone briefing, Electrify America COO Brendan Jones noted that by 2020, 80 percent of the electric vehicles in California will be driving on the streets of the chosen key metropolitan areas. Many fast DC chargers that will be deployed along highways, at retail outlets or nearby apartment complexes, will be able to charge EVs with "20 miles per minute," noted Jones.  

Electrify America, of course, isn't the only company focused on EV charging. Utilities and charging providers have been investing heavily in building out charging infrastructure across certain regions around the United States, but particularly in California. California now has around 450,000 EVs.

One in 10 vehicles sold in California has a plug, said Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Colin Mckerracher recently. That's compared to one in 40 vehicles in the rest of the United States. California has a plan to reach 1.5 million zero emissions vehicles by 2025 and 5 million by 2030.

This summer, California energy regulators — the California Public Utility Commission, or CPUC — approved a portfolio of EV charging projects worth $738 million for California’s investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). Those programs will build chargers for both passenger and commercial vehicles, and are some of the largest uses of public funding for utility EV charging infrastructure to date.

Meanwhile, companies such as Tesla, ChargePoint, EVgo and Greenlots are focused on offering charging options for residential customers, commercial fleets and retail shoppers. And retailers themselves are getting in on the action — Walmart is rolling out fast electric vehicle chargers at 100 locations across 34 states by the summer of 2019.

If you're interested in EV infrastructure, we're delving into this topic a variety of ways at our VERGE conference in two weeks in Oakland, California. We'll feature speakers such as:

  • CEC's Janea Scott

  • Greenlots CEO Brett Hauser

  • EVgo's CEO Cathy Zoi

  • Electrify America's Wayne Killen

  • Southern California Edison's Laura Renger

  • Volta's CEO Scott Mercer

  • BYD's President Stella Li

  • Con Edison's Stuart Nachmias

  • PG&E's Stephanie Greene

  • Greenlining's Joel Espino

  • And many more!

We'll also have Bolt EVs to ride and drive in and charging infrastructure to charge up your EV by a couple companies. The conference will be powered by a microgrid that uses solar panels on the roof of the Golden State Warriors’ stadium. Don't miss it.